Feedback I emailed to Queena Lee-Chua appeared in her column today (see "Readers speak out," Philippine Daily Inquirer, 11 May 2009). If I had known that she was going to print my short email, I would've presented the reasons for my assertion that "The evidence that only two books—not one, not three—were printed in 1593 is very strong." I will be working on a post that will layout my position as clearly as possible. In the meantime, I'm reproducing the relevant portion of Lee-Chua's column, followed by my reply to Teresita Ang-See, which was not printed.
Von Totanes writes: I read your column on Bahay Tsinoy (Jan, 19, 2009). You may want to forward this link to founder Teresita Ang-See: http://filipinolibrarian.blogspot.com/2007/07/first-books-printed-in-philippines.html. The evidence that only two books—not one, not three—were printed in 1593 is very strong.
Ang See’s reply: Von’s points are well taken and I have encountered them before. I accept Von’s arguments as valid, but I cannot also say categorically that there are only those two books. According to the foreword of the “Shih Lu, Zhen Jiao Bian Zeng” (Apologia), it could be the first book printed here. But I doubt it because the book was an elaborate treatise on what true religion is.Here's my reply to Ang-See's email, which I also sent to Lee-Chua:
The Chinese philosopher was arguing fiercely with the Dominicans about questions of philosophy. That the Dominicans won the argument is given because it became a book, right? The friars who wrote back to Spain said they translated into Chinese the catechisms and religious tracts in order to convert the Chinese. They were not as interested in Christianizing the Chinese here as in using them as stepping stones towards evangelizing a million “barbarian souls” in Cathay. Shouldn’t the “Doctrina Christiana” have been published ahead of the “Shih Lu?” It is easier to translate the “Doctrina” than it is to record and put into a book the debate on true religion...
We cannot also conclude that the “Doctrina Christiana en Lengua China” (the earlier version) doesn’t exist just because the original book can’t be found anymore. Remember the Boxer Codex? If it were not brought to London and if Boxer didn’t buy it and later donated it, would we have known that the book existed?
So I’d like to just let it be [three books]. Let’s just be aware that the Chinese played a role in the easier and faster spread of Christianity because of the art of printing, which they brought to the Philippines.
thanks for taking the time to reply. and i'd like to apologize if my blog post was confusing, but there is no question that the doctrina china exists. the only known copy is in the vatican library.
i decided to send feedback after reading dr. queena's lee's column because i am doing research on the history of the book in the philippines as a phd student in university of toronto, and i believe that the chinese have been rendered invisible when references are made to the doctrina christiana in spanish and tagalog as the first book printed in the philippines. what about the other book in chinese? the reference to one book printed in 1593 is more common in popular publications and tv shows. and the lack of acknowledgment of the existence of the other book, aside from being less than truthful, only reinforces the notion that the important role the chinese have played in philippine history continues to be ignored.
in this regard, i hope you will have time to read the article by P. van der Loon [“The Manila incunabula and early Hokkien studies,” Asia Major 12 (1966), 1-43], upon which i and other researchers have based our conclusion that the doctrina china was printed after 1593. it should be available in many libraries because the national historical institute printed copies in the 70s, but if you can't find a copy, i'll gladly bring a copy to your office.
i'm hoping you can take a look at his article because van der loon was a sinologist who looked at the text of the shih-lu and the doctrina china, and concluded that some of the chinese characters used in the latter prove that it must have been printed many years after 1593.